I want to set up a nano saltwater tank - help and advice please!

Megabeth
Member
Hello everyone! I have just finished setting up my brackish tank which I opted to do instead of saltwater but it was so fun that I now really want to set up nano saltwater. I want to wait a little bit before I start setting up the saltwater maybe a month but right now I'm doing lots of research and figuring out if I really want to commit to saltwater. I have come up with possible stocking and equipment ideas that I want to be checked to make sure I'm going in the right direction. I was thinking of doing a FOWLR tank and maybe later i could add corals if i wanted. I also want it to be kind of "low tech" if that's the word for it i.e no sump, skimmer etc. I want it to be as simple as possible.

Equipment and tank-
  • 20 gallon long tank
  • 15-20 pounds of rock. I don't know if I will do part live and the rest dry or all dry. I don't really want to go through curing and possible pests so I don't know what I should do.
  • Reusing freshwater light. I will get a different one if i want corals in the future.
  • 20 pounds of sand. Probably aragonite or live. Again not sure.
  • Eheim Jager heater 75w
  • Old HOB with filter floss and carbon changed out each week. (I think this is good please tell me if I should put something different in it)
  • Wavemakers (how many gph would you recommend?)
  • I will be using RODI water

Stocking Ideas-
I don't have to do all of these but these are just some fish and things that I would like to possibly keep. The only thing im really set on is a pair of ocellaris clownfish. Please tell me what you think!
I would also really like to have the urchin and im ok to do supplemented feedings with the shrimp and others.

General questions-
  • Whats your favorite nano fish?
  • How many of the fish/inverts can i keep that are on my list?
  • What would you recommend as a CUC for this tank?
  • Still a little confused about curing. Do you cure dry rock or do you just scrub it? I know it can lead to nitrate and phosphate issues but what should i do with it?
  • If i were to get a couple of pounds of live rock what should i do about pests, curing, ect.
  • Can I use my freshwater test kit since I'm not keeping corals i really just need to know ammonia, nitrite and nitrate? If I can do I need the saltwater chart or will it be the same?
Thank you so much I'm sorry this is a long post!
 
Jesterrace
Member
A sumpless, skimmerless 20 Long is perfectly doable with the bioload you are thinking about (although personally I would ditch the firefish because they can be easily bullied and very skittish). In point of fact I would generally recommend running it the way you are thinking as the other items would just be a hassle/waste in that situation.

As for the live rock, you sound like a perfect candidate for Caribsea Life Rock. It is dry rock that has been cured and coated with a man made bacteria coating. This way you don't have to cure the rock (ie dry rock) but also don't have the potential pests that come with live rock. It has a man made bacteria coating that becomes active in saltwater, so you do get at least the bacterial benefits to it. It's also a bit cheaper than regular live rock. I have used it in both of my saltwater tanks and been pretty happy with it.

The Freshwater light will be fine, although you may not like the white light look that they generally produce. As for Sand it's really your choice as there are plenty of good options. I like the Caribsea Live Sand for it's mix of substrate, but it's really up to you. Live Sand benefits are generally overrated so never get it just for that purpose.

The HOB Filter should be fine as long as you clean it out really well. As for Wavemakers, I would say 800-1000 gph would be plenty for that tank unless you are planning an SPS Coral Farm in the future. Above all don't go really cheap and get a suction cup one. You definitely want a magnetic backed powerhead as suction cups wear out quickly in a marine tank and a magnetic backed one will keep your powerhead where it belongs. A powerhead breaking loose in your tank is a recipe for disaster and it effectively becomes a non-issue with a magnetic backing.

Glad to hear you are using RODI water. A lot of folks say tap is fine for FOWLR and while it's true it probably won't harm the fish if it's treated, it doesn't adress the unwanted algae farm issues that you will likely be dealing with if you use it and other things (ie Red Slime Algae aka Cyanobacteria).

I would say your list looks good barring the Firefish just because I feel it will be pushing your bioload for a fish that might spend a lot of time in hiding or be an easy bully target for tank mates. My Purple Firefish was a bully magnet and hid all the time. Tuxedo Urchin would be pushing it a bit in a tank of that size. I have one in my 90 gallon and he MOVES. In addition they have a tendency to like to make hats out of certain corals (ie Zoanthids) so be aware of that if you are thinking of a reef tank in the future. For LPS type corals though they are generally fine as long as you keep them well glued down. Urchins go wherever they want whenever they want. Tuxedos are the best behaved of the bunch though and don't get huge unlike the others. The larger varieties are very destructive. I made the mistake of putting in a Long Spined and it bulldozed a big Frogspawn Coral Colony that I had that had been glued firmly in place for over 2 years. Needless to say he got the boot.

Clown Goby would probably tied with Pink Streaked Wrasse for my favorite nano fish. Lots of fun personality in them. You can keep most of what is on your list in a 20 Long with no issues, I would just make a couple of the adjustments that I mentioned. The solution I recommended would make both of those things (ie curing and pests) a non-issue. You can use your freshwater kit (I assume API), just be aware it can give false positives for Ammonia and Nitrates can be goofy. Personally I would just get a different test kit (ie Red Sea, Salifert) as they tend to be more accurate. I found all kinds of goofy issues when comparing my API kit to my Red Sea kit and the Red Sea kit was definitely more accurate in my experience.
 
Theulli
Member
I recently stood up a 20g FOWLR tank myself, though I have an AIO.

I know some people have had trouble with them, but probably my favorite CuC tank denizen is my Emerald Crab. The little guy has a lot of personality - the other day he literally leapt out of nowhere to grab a dead hermit crab from my tweezers as I was lifting it out of the tank. After I then saw him dragging a piece of chaeto across the tank like the spoils of war I'm convinced he eats anything.

I've got a six line wrasse and a bicolor blenny, love them both, a couple more fish coming soon, looking at a royal gramma and a yellow headed jawfish, or I might talk myself into splurging on a Helfrichi Firefish + a screen on top of the tank.

I too am going to try the tuxedo urchin in my 20g. I went light on snails/hermits because I wanted some biodiversity and the crabs are unsettlingly like a horde of shambling zombies. We'll see how it goes, hopefully I can find a small one.
For what it's worth I went uncured live rock + CaribSea live sand. I did end up with some hitchhikers, so we will see if I regret it.
 
Jesterrace
Member
Theulli said:
I recently stood up a 20g FOWLR tank myself, though I have an AIO.

I know some people have had trouble with them, but probably my favorite CuC tank denizen is my Emerald Crab. The little guy has a lot of personality - the other day he literally leapt out of nowhere to grab a dead hermit crab from my tweezers as I was lifting it out of the tank. After I then saw him dragging a piece of chaeto across the tank like the spoils of war I'm convinced he eats anything.

I've got a six line wrasse and a bicolor blenny, love them both, a couple more fish coming soon, looking at a royal gramma and a yellow headed jawfish, or I might talk myself into splurging on a Helfrichi Firefish + a screen on top of the tank.

I too am going to try the tuxedo urchin in my 20g. I went light on snails/hermits because I wanted some biodiversity and the crabs are unsettlingly like a horde of shambling zombies. We'll see how it goes, hopefully I can find a small one.
For what it's worth I went uncured live rock + CaribSea live sand. I did end up with some hitchhikers, so we will see if I regret it.
The 6 line wrasse will make adding other fish a challenge. They are not good community fish as they mature, especially in a smaller tank. Definitely avoid the helfrichi with a 6 line in there.
 
  • Thread Starter
Megabeth
Member
Jesterrace said:
A sumpless, skimmerless 20 Long is perfectly doable with the bioload you are thinking about (although personally I would ditch the firefish because they can be easily bullied and very skittish). In point of fact I would generally recommend running it the way you are thinking as the other items would just be a hassle/waste in that situation.

As for the live rock, you sound like a perfect candidate for Caribsea Life Rock. It is dry rock that has been cured and coated with a man made bacteria coating. This way you don't have to cure the rock (ie dry rock) but also don't have the potential pests that come with live rock. It has a man made bacteria coating that becomes active in saltwater, so you do get at least the bacterial benefits to it. It's also a bit cheaper than regular live rock. I have used it in both of my saltwater tanks and been pretty happy with it.

The Freshwater light will be fine, although you may not like the white light look that they generally produce. As for Sand it's really your choice as there are plenty of good options. I like the Caribsea Live Sand for it's mix of substrate, but it's really up to you. Live Sand benefits are generally overrated so never get it just for that purpose.

The HOB Filter should be fine as long as you clean it out really well. As for Wavemakers, I would say 800-1000 gph would be plenty for that tank unless you are planning an SPS Coral Farm in the future. Above all don't go really cheap and get a suction cup one. You definitely want a magnetic backed powerhead as suction cups wear out quickly in a marine tank and a magnetic backed one will keep your powerhead where it belongs. A powerhead breaking loose in your tank is a recipe for disaster and it effectively becomes a non-issue with a magnetic backing.

Glad to hear you are using RODI water. A lot of folks say tap is fine for FOWLR and while it's true it probably won't harm the fish if it's treated, it doesn't adress the unwanted algae farm issues that you will likely be dealing with if you use it and other things (ie Red Slime Algae aka Cyanobacteria).

I would say your list looks good barring the Firefish just because I feel it will be pushing your bioload for a fish that might spend a lot of time in hiding or be an easy bully target for tank mates. My Purple Firefish was a bully magnet and hid all the time. Tuxedo Urchin would be pushing it a bit in a tank of that size. I have one in my 90 gallon and he MOVES. In addition they have a tendency to like to make hats out of certain corals (ie Zoanthids) so be aware of that if you are thinking of a reef tank in the future. For LPS type corals though they are generally fine as long as you keep them well glued down. Urchins go wherever they want whenever they want. Tuxedos are the best behaved of the bunch though and don't get huge unlike the others. The larger varieties are very destructive. I made the mistake of putting in a Long Spined and it bulldozed a big Frogspawn Coral Colony that I had that had been glued firmly in place for over 2 years. Needless to say he got the boot.

Clown Goby would probably tied with Pink Streaked Wrasse for my favorite nano fish. Lots of fun personality in them. You can keep most of what is on your list in a 20 Long with no issues, I would just make a couple of the adjustments that I mentioned. The solution I recommended would make both of those things (ie curing and pests) a non-issue. You can use your freshwater kit (I assume API), just be aware it can give false positives for Ammonia and Nitrates can be goofy. Personally I would just get a different test kit (ie Red Sea, Salifert) as they tend to be more accurate. I found all kinds of goofy issues when comparing my API kit to my Red Sea kit and the Red Sea kit was definitely more accurate in my experience.
Thank you this was very helpful! A couple more questions. Anything specific would you recommend for the CUC and how many would you recommend to have (snails, shrimp, crabs etc.)? Also could I replace the firefish with anything or would that be pushing the stocking? Thank you so much for all your help!
 
Jesterrace
Member
Trochus Snails are arguably the best all around snails for clean up crew and they can flip themselves over to boot, for sand Nassarius are a good choice for smaller tanks. For Clean Up Crew it is recommended to get as close as possible to one per gallon. For Shrimp a Pistol or Sexy Shrimp would be best suited for that tank. Stick to smaller hermits. The others can be problematic for things like corals. As for stocking I would seriously consider removing the 6 line before adding anything else. Well known for turning into pescacidal maniacs as they mature. Take a look at people's experiences with them:
 
  • Thread Starter
Megabeth
Member
Jesterrace said:
Trochus Snails are arguably the best all around snails for clean up crew and they can flip themselves over to boot, for sand Nassarius are a good choice for smaller tanks. For Clean Up Crew it is recommended to get as close as possible to one per gallon. For Shrimp a Pistol or Sexy Shrimp would be best suited for that tank. Stick to smaller hermits. The others can be problematic for things like corals. As for stocking I would seriously consider removing the 6 line before adding anything else. Well known for turning into pescacidal maniacs as they mature. Take a look at people's experiences with them:
Ok I wasn't planning on getting a wrasse I think that was another user. However instead of the firefish could I get a different fish or will that be pushing the stocking? Could I have a skunk shrimp instead if I supplement feed it because I just think they are cool even if they do clean the tank as well.
Ive been looking around and i think for the CUC i will do 4-5 trochus snails 2-3 nassarius snails. Then I want to keep these anyhow so the cleaning part is just a nice addition to me 1 pistol shrimp, 1 skunk shrimp and the tuxedo urchin. For the last 3 I can also do supplemented feedings if they don't get enough to eat.
 
Jesterrace
Member
Megabeth said:
Ok I wasn't planning on getting a wrasse I think that was another user. However instead of the firefish could I get a different fish or will that be pushing the stocking? Could I have a skunk shrimp instead if I supplement feed it because I just think they are cool even if they do clean the tank as well.
Ive been looking around and i think for the CUC i will do 4-5 trochus snails 2-3 nassarius snails. Then I want to keep these anyhow so the cleaning part is just a nice addition to me 1 pistol shrimp, 1 skunk shrimp and the tuxedo urchin. For the last 3 I can also do supplemented feedings if they don't get enough to eat.
Whoops, you are correct. I was looking at one a couple of posts up. A Clown Goby could be fun and they are different enough from the Watchmans that you shouldn't have compatibility issues. You could have a skunk shrimp in there and it will definitely eat food bits. Mine was always dancing around like it was hungry in my 36 gallon so I didn't feel it was well suited to a tank that small. It seemed to do better in my 90 when I upgraded. The rest should be okay if you supplement.
 
  • Thread Starter
Megabeth
Member
I just thought of something. I have 14 gallon hex tank and right now it seems more feasible to make that tank into saltwater instead of getting another one. In the beginning I only wanted clowns and the goby and shrimp were kind of just a cool add on because I would have room but do you think I could instead do the 14 hex with 2 clowns, 1 tuxedo urchin (more of as a pet not necessary for cleaning) and a skunk cleaner shrimp (same reason as the urchin) and a CUC? I would also add an ATO system since the tank is so small. What do you think?
One more thing. Say if i got the clowns first would I need to quarantine them? Or could I just put them straight in the tank? After that would I need to quarantine the shrimp/urchin and other inverts? Again thank you so much you have been so helpful!
 
  • Thread Starter
Megabeth
Member
One last thing is there a way I can get caribsea life rock by the pound because I can only find them in 20 pound bags and 40 pound bags and I wouldn't need nearly that much.
 
Theulli
Member
Jesterrace said:
The 6 line wrasse will make adding other fish a challenge. They are not good community fish as they mature, especially in a smaller tank. Definitely avoid the helfrichi with a 6 line in there.
Hah this was prophetic I am rehoming my wrasse today because he turned from prettyfish into a vengful SOB the second I put a clown in the tank.
 
  • Thread Starter
Megabeth
Member
Theulli said:
Hah this was prophetic I am rehoming my wrasse today because he turned from prettyfish into a vengful SOB the second I put a clown in the tank.
That sucks. I think that they are so pretty but I've heard they can be super mean.
 

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